The Chicago Bears will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos Sunday in what feels like a must-win game. Head coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky have faced harsh criticism following the team’s surprising loss against the Green Bay Packers last Thursday.
It will be a tough matchup for the team from both a gameplan and conditions standpoint. Here are five keys to victory for the Chicago Bears against the Denver Broncos:
1. Gameplan like you are playing yourself and not Vic Fangio
One of the biggest storylines heading into the game is that the Bears are facing their former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Fangio built the current Bears defense and will know the team’s offensive base concepts. His defense practiced against Trubisky for two seasons and he is well aware of the quarterback’s weaknesses.
It will be up to Nagy to devise a gameplan that Fangio isn’t already expecting. To achieve this, The Bears head coach should gameplan as if he was an opposing coach playing Chicago. He should scrap or create a new wrinkle for all of his go-to plays. Nagy could look at the team’s defensive struggles against the Packers, Dolphins, and Giants last season to infuse offensive plays that might throw Fangio off.
2. Don’t let the Broncos’ horses run wild
Denver’s offensive strength is their running game featuring running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Last season, the two rookie running backs combined for 1558 rushing yards.
Fangio could use the running game to neutralize the Bears pass defense from going after quarterback Joe Flacco. He could also use the running game to wear down a Bears defense that will be playing in 90-degree temperatures in the thin mountain air.
It will be up to the Bears defensive front to control the line of scrimmage which in turn will allow inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan to roam freely. By limiting Denver’s running game, it will force Flacco to throw more often which would be in the Bears’ favor. Stopping the run will also prevent the Broncos from controlling the clock which will be vital in the hot conditions.
3. Allow Eddy Piniero to kick away
Denver is one of the best kicking conditions for both kickers and punter due to the thin air. Kickers are able to attempt kicks of 10 to 15 yards longer than in other stadiums because of the conditions. In 2011, former Bears kicker Robbie Gould set a then team record for the longest field goal made which was a 57-yard attempt that came in Denver.
Last week against Green Bay, Nagy chose to keep the offense on the field for a 4th and 10 instead of attempting a field goal. The move backfired as the Bears failed to convert and did not give Piniero the chance to cut the Packers’ lead to 7-6. Against the Broncos, the game could come down to field goals, and it would be in Nagy’s best interest to trust his kicker. In the pre-season, Piniero made a 58-yard field goal with ease, imagine what he could do against the Broncos given the chance.
4. Utilize your best offensive weapon as a decoy
The Bears best offensive player last week against the Packers was wide receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson caught seven passes for 102 yards in the losing effort. Trubisky was locked on to his wide receiver so much that he missed wide-open targets and threw an interception trying to get the ball to his top receiver.
Against the Broncos, Trubisky could use his reliance on Robinson to his favor. By using pump fakes and quick progression reads, his other passing options could become open. One successful play the Bears offense can utilize is the fake wide receiver screen to Robinson. In Chicago’s playoff loss to Philadelphia last season, Trubisky connected with Josh Bellamy on a 34-yard pass that was set up by the fake wide receiver screen.
5. Use your workhorse back
One of the more disappointing aspects to the Bears loss last week was the underutilization of rookie running back David Montgomery. Montgomery only had six rushing attempts for 18 yards and one reception for 27 yards. With his performance in the pre-season, many expected him to be a focal point of the Bears offense both in the running game and passing game.
Getting Montgomery more involved against Broncos could be the best move for the offense. More targets in the passing game and more rushing attempts could help the Bears become more effective moving the ball. At Iowa State last season, Montgomery was the Cyclone’s most important player because of his versatility.